When friends come together in pursuit of the same goal, it’s something akin to magic.
That is at least the case at Friendly Snackbar, Main Street’s pretty-in-pink cafe shelling out the sweetest of treats and the tastiest of eats for Vancouver’s vegan and gluten-free communities.
On a rainy Vancouver night, Natalie Swatez sits at the table closest to the window. Although the darkness outside is overpowering, nothing can dampen the brightness of Friendly Snackbar’s aura. The space is the lovechild of a powerful all-female team, featuring some of the plant-based industry’s most well-known faces: Naomi Arnaut, owner of Say Hello Sweets; Emma Smith, owner of Zimt Chocolates; Lisa Skelton, owner of The Wallflower diner and the now-closed Smallflower bakery; and Swatez, manager of Friendly Snackbar. The coming together of this group of friends is something Swatez describes as “empowering”—they discovered a need for a place where small food producers could be seen, and decided to create one.
“It’s so expensive and so much work to have a shop of your own,” she says. “Especially if you’re wanting to try new things out. It takes a lot to do that.” That’s when the idea to launch Friendly was born. Each of these women has discovered the highs and lows of owning a small business, so having a shared playground to focus on growth and engage with the community was an enticing idea.
The menu is fun, comforting, delicious, and safe—it takes away the stress of ordering by offering options for those with dietary restrictions, such as Swatez herself, who has celiac disease. There is Zimt, which satisfies those intense chocolate cravings with its rich, raw vegan chocolate; and Say Hello Sweets, a selection of handcrafted ice creams made from a blend of coconut milk and house-made cashew milk, letting those who are dairy-free lick their scoops with ease. Not to mention, the baked goods lining the counter use recipes from The Smallflower, a missed favourite of both gluten-free and vegan eaters. For those who want something a little more filling, Friendly has an array of hearty warm bowls (Lemony Lentils and Yams, anyone?) and cold bowls including maple chickpea and broccoli tofu.
The cute Mount Pleasant space was transformed from hair salon into snack bar in the span of just 21 days, opening its doors in spring 2017. The perfectly simple honeycomb tiling, flowing into hardwood floor, is the grand entrance for Friendly Snackbar’s most prized possession: a 1950s pink refrigerator that dispenses kombucha from local company Spark.
The Friendly team is excited to grow, and to see other small food businesses flourish within their space. “We wanted it to be easily convertible for other events and other people’s brands,” Swatez explains. “If they wanted to come in and do something, they could change it up in their own way.” Friendly is proud to support its plant-based community, carrying Cococreme coconut milk mousse from Amai Vegan Treats, nut milks from Nuez, caffeine-free latte mixes from Blume, and much more. Even their new neighbours, Blue Heron Creamery, are working on a special vegan yogurt just for them.
With smiling faces, Swatez, Skelton, Smith, and Arnaut invite everyone to come in, say hello, and enjoy a snack among friends.
Find other vegan options around Vancouver here.